Council knocks back supermarket application

Community members turned out in force for a Size Matters gathering in December to discuss concerns about the supermarket proposal. Photo: Eve Lamb

Eve Lamb

A proposal to build a large Woolworths supermarket on Castlemaine’s Forest Street is headed to VCAT after Mount Alexander Shire Council last week knocked back planning approval for the controversial proposal in its current form.
The councillor vote to refuse the application in its current scaled-up form was unanimous at last Tuesday night’s July council meeting.
Major sticking points highlighted by councillors include failure to factor in traffic treatment design to adequately ensure community safety, as well as location, scale, and the proposed usurping of a leafy public roadside reserve to meet the development’s carparking needs.
“So many people have said to us they want a new supermarket – but this is not the supermarket,” said Cr Rosie Annear, moving the motion of refusal in line with the council officer recommendation, after the application had attracted 178 formal objections.
“I have read over 600 pages of objections over the weekend,” Cr Gary McClure said, supporting Cr Annear’s motion of refusal.
“We’ve got to have a decent traffic management solution and what we have before us is rubbish,” Cr Christine Henderson said.
“A classic trojan horse,” was the way mayor Cr Tony Cordy described the application, noting that the matter had been before council on several prior occasions with the council previously granting approval for a supermarket with a far smaller footprint at the town gateway site, opposite busy Castlemaine Primary School.
Seconding Cr Annear’s motion of refusal, Cr Stephen Gardner said he could not support the proposal in its current form despite his belief that Castlemaine badly needs another supermarket to stem the significant loss of business to other centres.
“It makes me very sad that I’m not going to sit here and approve the supermarket,” Cr Gardner said.
“We need one. About 60 per cent of our residents go elsewhere to shop. But for the developers to go to VCAT and try to force a decision that doesn’t meet our community needs is wrong.”
Part of Cr Annear’s successful motion of refusal included the added provision that if the proponents were to amend their application to address the outstanding concerns raised, the matter could again return to the council for consideration.
All councillors voted in favour of Cr Annear’s motion to refuse the permit in its current form, with Cr Bill Maltby declaring a conflict and leaving the meeting while the matter was considered.
Mark Koehne, a member of the Size Matters community group opposing the proposal as it stands, has told the Mail he will be among several members of the group who will be individually opposing the development when the matter goes before VCAT with a 10-day hearing now set for March 2022.
“It will be a bun fight,” Mr Koehne said, pointing to the significant opposition to the proposal.
“We think the developer is playing games.
“The developer already has a permit to build a smaller supermarket and he should get on with it and build it instead of making a grab for something twice its size.”

Eve Lamb
Journalist and photographer Eve Lamb has a Bachelor of Arts (Journalism) degree from Deakin University and a Master of Arts (Professional Writing) from Deakin University. She has worked for many regional newspapers including the Hamilton Spectator and the Warrnambool Standard, and has also worked for metro daily, The Hobart Mercury, and The Sunday Tasmanian. Eve has also contributed to various magazines including Australian Cyclist.